George Huertas ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Violence imminent.” Two words that describe The Raid 2 perfectly.
And violent The Raid 2 is. Make no mistake, this film is a hard-R, bordering on an NC-17 rating. There are dismemberings, slit jugulars, broken bones, and a whole boatload of like-minded violence that could make even seasoned veterans of action movies cringe.
Yet there is also a deep sense of elegance to it all. The choreography and violence of The Raid 2 is fluid and clearly shot, proving Gareth Evans is once again a master of his craft. The obviously larger budget has clearly not inspired Evans to forget the grittiness that made The Raid: Redemption such a hit in the first place. There are numerous action sequences, such as one taking place in a mud-caked prison yard and another on a train, that are breathtaking not only for the level of violence they depict, but the level of skill and sophistication it takes to pull them off. With these sequences, The Raid 2 takes what made The Raid: Redemption work and builds upon it.
It would not be enough, however, if we were given simply more of the same. The previous Raid film, while heavy on the action, was noticeably light on the plot: twenty men are stuck in a building filled with bad guys who need to die. It was endearingly simple, but was little more than an excuse to thread action scene after action scene together. And, as many other action franchises have taught us, the same premise repeated ad nauseam doesn’t hold well for future installments.
This is why The Raid 2 is such a breath of fresh air. Rather than relegating Rama, the series protagonist, to another building with another group of enemies to fight, the story Evans tells in The Raid 2 is more akin to a police crime drama than a martial arts film.
Rama, having eliminated the villains of the previous installment, must now go undercover with the very gang he had previously sought to destroy. With this, we are given a slightly more nuanced perspective to the villains who were previously presented as generic, two-dimensionally evil psychotics.
One particularly compelling character is Rama’s most frequent compatriot in the criminal underworld, Uco. A fiery, determined, but overly confident young man, Uco’s transformation over the course of the film lends The Raid 2 some gravitas that its previous installment lacked. Constantly living in the shadow of his father and his name, Uco is a tragically human figure in The Raid 2. While certainly far from saintly (he is a gangster, after all), Uco’s cocksure swagger and aggressive personality hide a deeply wounded, scared, and conflicted young man, desperate to prove his name. In many ways, the film’s story is as much about him as it is Rama.
However, this plotline doesn’t distract from the main draw of The Raid 2: the action. All of the action sequences are beautifully choreographed, horrifically violent, and infinitely watchable. If one doesn’t want to pay the occasionally convoluted story some mind, and instead just wants to experience the onslaught of bloodletting bereft of context, they will not be disappointed.
The Raid 2 is a brutal, unflinching film, but not without pathos. It’s a film for fans of action films and crime sagas alike, and should not be missed.
Overall Grade: A-